Serving Roseau County for over 100 Years - The Official Roseau County Newspaper

Double Dipping

For my northern friends, the Canteen in the Alley is a very small restaurant in Ottumwa, Iowa. It seats 16 people on stools around the horseshoe counter. A canteen sandwich is a loose meat hamburger. (Scrambled.) You can get a Canteen with, or without cheese, and that’s about it. Oh, they also offer egg sandwiches, and hotdogs. No fries, but they have great pie. People will stand in line waiting for a seat, but a lot of folks get their food to go. It’s a cozy place.

The focal point of the restaurant is the steam table behind the counter. A waitress will take your order, and call it out. They don’t write anything down. One lady puts condiments on a bun, then slides them to the side for the steam table lady

One day, shortly before noon, I called my wife asking if she wanted to go to the Canteen for lunch, but she was busy and couldn't go. At 1:20 Melissa called me back asking if I still wanted to go. I said "Sure!" and agreed to meet her there.

Since we arrived after the lunch crowd, we only waited a few minutes to sit down. The ladies at the Canteen get to know their customers pretty well. "Cheese everything and cheese ketchup, mustard pickle?" The lady asked from the prep table.

"Yep" I replied. She knew both my and my wife’s order.

Another lady came from the back room and brought us our glasses of water, looked at me and asked, "Weren't you already here today?"

Three Canteen ladies replied in unison, "No, he wasn't here."

The water lady said "I thought you were here this morning."

Another lady said "No, that was his brother that looks just like him." Yet another lady responded, "Yeah, that was his brother, Newell."

Melissa gave me a stern look as if I was on the witness stand and factually stated her question; "And you had coconut creme pie, too, didn't you!"

The nice elderly gentleman sitting to my right nudged me, softly saying "You're in trouble now." We had a good laugh about that.

We ate our Canteens. As Melissa ordered coconut creme pie, the lady looked at me and Melissa answered; "he's already had his pie" before the question was even asked.

God bless those Canteen ladies. They tried to cover for me. (and, I would have gotten away with it, if the water lady hadn’t of sang like a canary!)


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